26 min read

Episode 24—Test-Optional: Lessons From an Early Adopter, Part 1


The topic of test-optional admissions brings a wide variety of responses from enrollment leaders. On today's episode of Enrollment Edge, Jay will talk to Martin Aucoin, Vice Provost & Dean of Admissions at Belmont Abbey College. Belmont Abbey was one of the very first test-optional policy adopters in the country. Just two years ago, there were a few hundred colleges and universities that were considered test-optional. As many testing dates were canceled or delayed in the name of public health during the pandemic, thousands of colleges have adopted, both temporarily and permanently, a test-optional policy to help admit students even without available test scores. 

Jay will discuss with Martin the benefits and challenges of a test-optional admissions policy from the perspective of an early adopter and what lessons he has learned after more than a decade of practicing this controversial policy.


Episode Transcript


[00:01:35] Jay Fedje: Welcome to the Enrollment Edge Podcast for college enrollment and marketing leaders. I'm your host Jay Fedje, Enrollment Edge is sponsored by enrollmentFUEL, a trusted full-service student search and marketing partner to colleges and universities across the country. If you'd like to learn more about enrollment tool services, or you have questions about today's episode, we've included a link to our website in the show notes. You can also email us at Edge@enrollmentfuel.com. We'd love to hear what you think. If you can, help us by subscribing to our podcast, sharing it with your friends and leaving a five star review on Apple podcasts. Today on the Enrollment Edge, I dig into the hot topic of test optional from the point of view of a college that adopted the policy in the earlier seasons. Martin Aucoin, Vice Provost and Dean of enrollment at Belmont Abbey College has lived with, wrestled with, and put theory into practice from the earliest years of the test optional movement. In 2008, there were just a handful of colleges that ventured into the practice of not using standardized tests when reviewing applicants. We'll talk about the challenges of the early stages, and the lessons that they've learned about the benefits and challenges more than a decade later. Joining me today on the Enrollment Edge, I want to give a special welcome to Martin Aucoin from Belmont Abbey College. Martin, welcome to the Enrollment Edge.

[00:01:34] Martin Aucoin: Thanks, Jay. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:01:35] Jay Fedje: Yeah, it's good having you we started talking about topics that you and I might find interesting. And one of the things that stood out to me, and we're gonna dive into this is test optional. Now as the Vice Provost, Dean of Admissions at Belmont, you really have a great deal of impact on the output, the operationalization of test optional, and how that works for your school. And I felt like this would be a great topic from an early adopters perspective. Belmont Abbey started this a long time ago from what I can tell about 2008, 2009. So, there are only a handful of colleges at that point, now, there's literally hundreds, if not 1000s of schools that have moved into that direction, because of COVID, or because of other reasons and kind of trying to simplify the process, maybe during some strange times. But as an early adopter, I really wanted to capture your experience. And so, I'm extremely glad you're on the show and you're willing to talk about that. So, first things first, there are so many terms that are being thrown around, right? I'm just gonna name a few that I've heard test optional, test flexible, test hybrid and test blind. And I've heard the term, test aware. Okay, help me understand what all that is. Can you help me?

[00:03:21] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, I'll do my best. And I think that's definitely important to look at when you're evaluating, test optional policies. It's a spectrum. And, yeah, Belmont Abbey, our journey has certainly, it's been a journey. It hasn't just been okay, we're test optional now flip the switch, and you're done. And yeah, that's it. I think right now, we are in a test optional place. We were, you mentioned back in 2008, we made that decision for the fall 2009 cohort to be test optional with an academic threshold. So, we didn't start out just saying, everybody you don't necessarily need to submit test scores. And so it was kind of test optional for the students that had over a 3.0 GPA was kind of where we started. And now with test optional, when you're looking at that from an application standpoint, where students say, do you want to submit test scores, yes or no. And they're kind of choosing versus schools that are just listing submit test scores, and the field is optional. And that was the approach that we had taken and then now, I think there's more and more of this test blind where, you don't really want that student to have the anxiety of should I submit? Should I not submit? You're saying, we're not looking at it and might still collect it in different ways. And use it for institutional research or kind of after the fact or course placement or things like that. But it's not even for the students that are submitting it, they're not even looked at. So, I think there is a spectrum, it's different from institution to institution, like I said, at Belmont Abbey, it's been a kind of a progression, and something that's continually discussed and looked at is, should we be using test scores? How should we be using test scores? What's the student experiences are we are we helping them, are we increasing kind of equity and access? Or are we just, causing more stress in an already stressful application process?

[00:05:49] Jay Fedje: You mentioned access? Now I want to take one step aside and point at the standardized tests. And from the enrollment managers perspective, tests are used appropriately. From my perspective, appropriately, as you talk about access, predicting success, but it also can be misused. And we've seen that it's used as a benchmark of academic standard of academic ability. And so, for some, it says, this is how smarter classes or how not smarter classes or average our classes, but it's also used as a quick and dirty cut off and to say, for a lot of schools, nope, below that line, you're done and out. And that's really not using it as a predictive measure. It's using it just as an easy way to swipe off a large group of or a number of students in the application process. And I think those are some of the tension points that we've seen over the years that schools maybe Belmont Abbey at the beginning said, I don't know if this is serving its purpose anymore. Can you tell us a little bit about the origin? When you first started to see this is something that we're going to move towards? What was the motivation behind that?

[00:07:07] Martin Aucoin: It definitely was an effort to try to boost applications and admitted students, I mean, we're trying to get increase enrollment at the college. That's one of the reasons we went test optional. I think one of the approaches to doing that is removing kind of barriers that, when you look back at research that has been done, certainly, using test scores as a cut off. And this is even more popular, I think, at the graduate level, it's not best practice. It's really not a best practice. And then you mentioned using it as a predictor of success, I think, even then the effectiveness is questionable, and it's best when used in context of GPA and test score, and things like that. So, I think we started with that academic threshold. So we were a little bit more comfortable, based off of how students with a 3.0, unweighted were performing we look at other things in the application review process, but we were a little bit more comfortable with the kind of success and retention of students above that threshold. So that's where we kind of started to fast forward, I think by 2018 we had made the decision to be kind of fully test optional, and I think it's a comfort thing where we had started with this this certain population, okay, we're doing this for these populations, maybe we should just kind of go all in then, when you look at the effectiveness of kind of boosting enrollment, and, of course, we're thinking, okay, there's more students that are first generation, there's more, a more diverse population of high school graduates, broader, socio economic backgrounds that are looking at, enter into college. So, certainly this is an effort to increase access but one thing that we didn't do was adjust our merit awarding our financial aid structure you got a merit award, just kind of based off of if your test optional, you got one based off your GPA, but if you submitted test scores, it almost always kind of bumped you up. So, we're still financially incentivizing submission of test scores, which didn't help us from an increasing, college access from a college access standpoint, it was not beneficial. Now with a pandemic. That's one thing that right away, I mean, as soon as we, saw tests starting to get canceled, we said, okay, it's time we've been talking about this, right? We've been doing it, we've been, tracking the success and retention of students that don't submit test scores that end up enrolling, we need to go all in, and we need to go, test optional from a financial aid and awarding standpoint.

[00:10:21] Jay Fedje: We're going to talk about the outcomes of all of that, because I think there's a number of folks, when considering this, and I was one of them, I as an enrollment manager, thought there was a lot of advantages to this. And you talk about socio economic disparities or anxiety, I mean, anxiety with the test, and students not being able to test to their levels, the cultural impact, I think that there's a number of question marks on how reliable that test is in predicting success. And so I kind of focus my attention on that. But I couldn't get past the detractors. There were so many detractors on campus that saw the test as a validation of academic ability, and I couldn't get past the use typically academic personnel staff in faculty that said, no, we can't get rid of the test, because that's a benchmark of how solid our class is and they talk about grade inflation, they talk about a number of things. Well, okay, we can unpack the validity of a test and in how school or students prepare for the test how school districts develop curriculum to prepare for the test. And then the economic disparity is wider and wider, schools that can't afford that may not be able to get there. So, I had a lot of problem getting that passed, I never got to the point where you have, unfortunately, I would have loved to but what were the early stage of those detractors that were kind of battling and say, no, I don't think this is where we want to go, talk a little bit about how you got past that.

[00:12:08] Martin Aucoin: To some extent, that conversation is ongoing. So, admissions criteria, especially when you look at retention efforts and student success, that tends to be kind of a easy target, or at least an easy target for conversation among faculty committees, and just other stakeholders on campus. So, it's an ongoing conversation, and I have, threads going on with different committees and things like that right now discussing that, and I'm perfectly happy to, because I think it is something where we need kind of stakeholder buy in from across campus, where it's not just the admissions office that cares about who comes here anymore, we're just kind of opening up the floodgates and see what happens. I think in the initial stages there, you know it's hard to just take something out of the formula without replacing it. So, I think that that's always a great place to start the conversation. Is that okay? Yeah, because of all these reasons, we're taking test scores out of consideration, or at least we're going test optional. And instead this is our new and improved application review process okay? So that could be one of the things that we've implemented and in the past years has been like a second review, where we're we have got multiple eyes on the applications where it's we had just a single review before that. But, it can be a admissions criteria, or at least that that review process of what you're looking for, and I think the best scenario is to work with, we have a strategic enrollment management group that's comprised of institutional research, the provost, academic affairs, student life, what are the pre matriculation factors, what are the data points that we have on these students that we can tie to success at our institution? That's going to be different, for everybody, but unfortunately, now we're at a place, we're technology, and you can even get into, predictive modeling and things like that, where you're dropping in 90 data points and it's telling you these, five or the most, influential factors and things like that. And this is what you should really be focusing on. So, I think whenever you're removing something from the requirements, or you're adjusting the requirements, it's better if you can say, hey, this is, to those stakeholders that are saying, what are we doing? How are we getting rid of this? If you can turn back and say, Look, we're evaluating this, we're going to insert these either review processes or criteria, and we're considering this instead of or in place of test scores.

[00:15:14] Jay Fedje: Those were initial hurdles that you were getting through those conversations and kind of swaying the anxiety from folks on campus that were saying, no, we're not dumbing down the class, we're not changing our admissions model and who we're targeting, we're just eliminating, substituting like you said, a different criteria or different process. But that didn't end it.

[00:15:40] Martin Aucoin: No, and fortunately, the longer you go on, you have kind of the support of other data and metrics on campus. I mean, obviously, retention is something that we're looking at, student success is something that we're looking at graduation rates, before going test optional. So, you continue to look at that and see, if there's substantial impact or considerable impact that you can attribute back to going test optional. We didn't initially see better retention, but it didn't get worse. And in fact, you can even break down based on score submitters, and non-score submitters, and I think, a lot of schools that went test optional, during the pandemic, they have a great sample group to kind of look at and see, and I know, there's other pandemic factors of, schools seeing increased retention, things like that. But I still think, once you make some changes, you have a cohort or a group that you can then look at, and kind of compare that that data and kind of see how it's how it's going.

[00:16:47] Jay Fedje: Well, know, you mentioned retention, and it didn't get worse. But in our conversation earlier, you've seen some improvement in some areas with certain groups, what have you seen that once you've removed the test? And then can you connect those two? Can you connect? Not having the test to some improvement.

[00:17:06] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, we've definitely seen, increases in retention, I think, retention is such a beast? It's a campus wide effort. So, I definitely can’t take the credit or even assign that credit to one particular initiative. I will say, with this test, optional population, it's one of those things that we are tracking that population alongside we do see, with this, basically, with non-submitters, you see, either, for each year either see the almost the same or even better, in some cases, retention rates among the non-submitters, so, I think that was, one of the concerns pretty early on, they're able to say, look, they're either retaining better or at the same rate, so your return your, your concern that they weren't going to do well, is kind of out the window. That being said, I think, in the broader initiative of seeing students that, you diversify in the class, from a standpoint of, we're seeing more students from varying socio economic backgrounds, we're seeing more diversity when it comes to race and ethnicity, more first generation students, these students, I mean, within, if we're intentionally recruiting, populations of students, we also need to be intentionally supporting populations. Yeah. we re refocused on kind of our entire first year experience and redesigning that, we’ve restructured our advising model were pre major, there's professional, pre major advisors now and they're not just kind of assigned to faculty advisors right away. And so, there's, more supports in place, and I think that's always, really important whenever, going after new markets or expanding markets that have unique needs that making sure that you're prepared for that too.

[00:19:13] Jay Fedje: I think there are a number of our listeners that would be keenly aware of the test optional impacting directly. We have been, oftentimes, historically average or below their ability test takers, so they are B students, and they're testing not? Well, and there's a number of reasons for that, but eliminating at the very beginning seems to send some kind of message to the student, that your work is going to be more important than that Saturday morning test that you took four or five times, and what's in your transcripts that you've labored over? Is critically important. Do you feel like that’s an impact on the retention?

[00:20:01] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, I do. I do think so. I mean, you're giving students the opportunity to represent themselves kind of, yeah, how they want to write. So, I think that there's a, there's a sense of comfort there. it's funny, because I don't know that it's, it's talked about as much but the aspect of test optional, where it, it makes the institutions look good. Right, after you get a test optional, when you have fewer score, submitters, your test score, average, hikes up, and it makes your academic profile look really green. And that's happened at Belmont Abbey. I mean, our academic profile has consistently, been going up, year to year, almost every year, we go up, notches on the test score range. GPA has actually been, steadily increasing, too, but yeah, particularly the ACT test scores, the average has considerably gone up, the longer we've been test optional. And, I think that, to the, to the extent where I think some, some critics have said, oh, schools are just trying to boost their academic profile, for those of you that are familiar with Belmont Abbey, we're not a highly selective institution, are highly rejected, I've heard that term to an objective, right, we welcome a broader population of students. So, we've never been, had the high, super high academic threshold that we're looking at, we have we welcome a broader diverse population of students. So, it's kind of it, it's been ideal for us to see. Yeah, I mean, great, we get, a huge academic, threshold goes up on paper, it looks like we get higher test for submitter, but, in reality, when we're working with students, we've been able to admit more students, just because we're not asking them to submit this test course,

[00:22:15] Jay Fedje: Your goal is not to just simply admit students, it's to graduate them, I mean we had a brief conversation on a boat, and we were talking about, the end goal of all of this is not just get them in the door, and get them in a seat, and get them in the first class. So, you can check off the box and, and hit the enrollment number and report it to iPads, and we're good. It's to actually get them across the stage in a reasonable amount of time, grabbing that diploma from a president and then going out into the world as an alum, and being a great representative of your school of community and so forth. And have you seen those groups? And I think you've kind of talked about the impact of underrepresented communities. And you're in the middle of that recruitment model. Have you seen the impact then on graduation of that community?

[00:23:11] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, so I think, one of the key things I'll say is, I think we're a little bit late with the going adjusting our award modeling. So, I think that'll help. I don't think we saw quite the impact that we could have had, if we, when we went fully test optional if we also adjusted the awarding model. So, it seems some of that for sure. But I also think we're about two years in to, seeing, more of that. So I look forward to that, hopefully two years from now. Seeing, we're certainly seeing it from the increased enrollment. I mean, when you look at an initial retention, sure, first time, first year, fall retention, but not at a point yet where we can really assess graduation rates,

[00:24:01] Jay Fedje: As you are bringing in students, varieties of different types of students. There are some outside organizations that are still in the place of requiring it, athletics. Yeah. Okay. So for eligibility standards, how are you navigating that space?

[00:24:19] Martin Aucoin: In COVID times NCAA has extended not requiring test scores or NCAA Division Two institution. We'll see if they come back from that, I don't know, I mean, following along kind of current events, they may not, and then they might be, embracing this test optional movement, which would be great. That said, there are still, some benefits to having this, we had to look at, we weren't doing placement testing. So, once we've gone test optional, we've implemented placement testing, but if students want to, they can either take the placement test, or submit SAT or ACT scores in, later in the enrollment process. So, we've moved, separating it from the admissions decision and collecting those at a later time, if they want to submit that I think that's a great option. with NCAA there, you can also submit to the clearing house and not to the institution. So that's, another way where we can still see it and go in, but they're not kind of submitting directly to us. Yeah, I mean, I, one of the things that, just to kind of go back, you mentioned kind of the boat conversation I think that reminded me too, of just the importance of, gathering all of these data points of looking back at, there's so many things that we know about students, besides test scores, and I think that's a thing where, like, people deny that like, oh, test scores is, it's so important to have this information. And I think every institution is collecting different data. But I mean, I don't know Belmont Abbey, especially with, CRMs. And their functionality. I mean, we collect so much data on students. And then once they're here, we're continuing that process, when they're in the LMS, and logging into access course content, and they're tracking attendance and their participation in campus events and activities and things like that. So, we're at a point now, when we're meeting and at CITRI, strategic enrollment management group where we're discussing, what data are we capturing? How can we use it? Is there data that we're not capturing? And how does that data, correlate with student success? And we have different, time phases where we're looking at that, and one of them is pre matriculation? What do we know before we even admit a student? Yeah, and there's a lot of that. And based on what we know, how likely that there are to retain, and then we look at who comes here, and if there's gaps there, where their students that, that we are attracting, but they're not staying? We're not necessarily saying, oh, just admissions criteria to keep them away. Sure. Right, saying, okay, what interventions can we take, to, if we do that, if we meet with a student here, first, week or if we provide additional, academic resources or, a co requisite course or something like that, will that make an impact? Will that help them stay here? So, I just, I don't know that that really popped back into my mind when you were when you're asking me about kind of graduation rates and populations and student success, that that's been a refreshing kind of conversation with key stakeholders on campus to look at, what all is available to us? How can we use it both to admit the right students, as well as support the students that we are kind of enrolling? I think it comes I mean, that term fit. I think that that's probably the best way that we're using, fit at Belmont Abbey is and it sounds kind of counterintuitive to be using data, when it's this kind of subjective thing that people talk about is what, will they fit in, but if you can see it in the numbers, I think and there are real metrics out there that that show that indicate that a student's going to be a good fit at your institution.

[00:28:53] Jay Fedje: Right and if we're really breaking it down to a Saturday test to determine fit, I think we've either oversimplified it or over trusted a test that morning. Do you believe that those folks are the stakeholders on Belmont Abbey's campus? I've gotten past and I say this tongue in cheek a little bit. Because in culture right now, it's either you're this or you're that you are a pro this or you're a non that. It’s, are you? Are you pro mask? A mask? Dumb stuff like that. But have you gotten past that? Is there a tester or a non-tester? I mean, are the classifications on campus kind of beyond that now?

[00:29:36] Martin Aucoin: Yes. I don't know that. Really outside of maybe admissions and institutional research, that there's, a ton of dialogue around, this when it comes to the student population of how many students are submitting test scores and aren't. I mean, this stuff's kind of reported, it's probably out their people can see it. But it's not a label, I guess, I can't guess. It's, I think if anything, we still have kind of some, some vocal opponents to being test optional, that say, we need to go back, and that will improve, the quality of academic quality or academic preparedness of our student body. And it'll be so much easier to teach them. But, yeah, I don't think I mean, there's no kind of like stigma or divide or anything like that. And honestly, I don't even know, that outside of the offices that are working kind of, on a broader kind of student data standpoint, that there's even a robust awareness of how many students is submitting or not. And I think that's amplified by COVID. Because I think people, people know that it was pretty tough to get it, to take a test and submit test scores for this last cycle. So, I think, probably the perception is that, almost all of our class, doesn't have test scores for the fall 2021. If I went around and pulled kind of faculty and staff or students around campus, I anticipate that would be the assumption there.

[00:31:25] Jay Fedje: From the most recent data, I think there's something 76% or 77% of those colleges that last year, decided to temporarily using air quotes temporarily, go test optional or continuing. So, there was no indication that there was not going to be tests this year so maybe there's some fear that there wouldn't be. But in reality, they probably were going to be able to get those tests, but they continue with this experiment. I had a conversation with a with an enrollment colleague that was fearful of that I really wanted, to ask you that question about this stigma on campus, because he was anxious that students were going to be labeled and you're right. I think it's unfounded, because people won't know. But there's that stigma of okay, are they? Are they are this are they bad? Are they the smart kid that took the test? Are they not smart kid that didn't take the test? And then the stigma really is it's kind of a false, a false anxiousness? It really isn't the reality of what you've seen.

[00:32:31] Martin Aucoin: No, it's not. And I would say, though, it's important, I'll go back to thinking about it from the student perspective, it I think, it benefits institutions to be more transparent about how they're using test scores should even at their test optional. And, if schools are saying they're test blind, great, that's, you’re up front and saying, like, we're not even looking at it. But if you're saying test optional, you can submit test scores, you don't have to, if you do submit them, great, and I think schools are pretty vague with that right now. Right? You see a lot of, if you think by submitting test scores, it's going to represent you and kind of best hospital why go ahead and submit them? But if not, then, don't worry about it, or do this instead. And I think that, that that model does present students with a little bit of anxiety of like, Should I do this, or should I not? So, I think schools really have to think through that, to the extent of how are you, putting this on your application for admission, when you're asking, either for self-reported, or, if after they submit the application, if there's, a prompt to, submit test scores, I think it benefits schools to, be transparent about how they're going to use them or not use them, or, even if it's from a, we're gonna use it from an institutional report, in reporting standpoint, or, select, scholarship programs that have requirements attached to them or things like that. But I think the more that you can do to reduce that anxiety on the student front by just being transparent saying, here’s how we're using them, then they'll know I should do this. I shouldn't do that. That's just my take on it, though.

[00:34:18] Jay Fedje: Sure. Sure. And I'm really glad you're sharing that because I think that There's there is real challenges that that enrollment managers and admissions officers will face. And then there's contrived perceived anxiety. I think there are real challenges of pushback from folks on campus and what this will mean to the, to the student body. And then there's also the well is it really going to be as challenging as all that? And I think the, this COVID cycle has allowed, in some ways, kind of a beta test for some schools to say, well, wasn't our decision, but we we've enrolled a great class, the students are working through the term they did well. So, it's, it's not any different, maybe they can rely on and move past that, that perception and say, okay, well, we're just going to kind of keep this now for a while.

[00:35:18] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, I hope that's the case. I mean, I am a proponent and advocate for kind of test optional policies. I just, yeah, I think it's always a journey, though. And it even if you're making the commitment for one more year, and that's it, that conversation is continuing, and you're looking at it the next year. So, I don't think that ever really stops when it comes to admissions criteria, I think people are gonna continue to, to look at it and see, how can we improve upon this? I just, yeah, I go back to thinking about, that be communicating with students about what you're doing? Because, yeah, we get caught up in, we started our conversation with the terms and news button, that term on your website, we're test optional, or we're test, blind or test considered or, exactly, school counselors are even asking, so what does that mean? What does that mean, at your institution? So, I think that's, that's important to classify? And I mean, and it's important to communicate those changes, as there is some nuance, is it? Is it just in the admissions process? Is it in the financial aid process? if it's having an impact on the type of student that we're enrolling, how are we supporting those new populations? I mean, it's an ongoing kind of conversation from so many angles. So definitely, need to bring those key stakeholders together from across campus, make the decision together, but then, track the data and, tweak it. I mean, we certainly we certainly have, over the years, multiple times tweaked what our definition of test optional is, and I think that that's something where there's still room for improvement.

[00:37:17] Jay Fedje: Well, I'm talking to Martin Aucoin, from Belmont Abbey college. And we've been talking about test optional from the one of the early adopter colleges in the country. And one of the things I think is we're kind of wrapping up our conversation, I would love to hear from you. If you're if you're at a conference, and you're, you're teaching a session, you're up there, and you've got all these folks, all these enrollment managers from around the country that dip their toe in the test, optional test aware test something a pool in and you were able to say to them, here's some advice for you, as you consider, what are three things that you would say? What are three things that you would say, as you begin this journey, and this conversation on campus, and wrestling, or the dialogue or the debating? What would help folks to kind of work through that and maybe adopted as a permanent thing?

[00:38:22] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, I think, the first thing is kind of bringing stakeholders together on campus, for sure. I mentioned our strategic enrollment management group, but, if you can bring, faculty and administrators from different areas together that are going to have, an opinion one way or the other about admissions criteria. But then, when you're starting that conversation about, should we stay test optional? Should we extend this? I think it's important to ask, why are we doing this? what is your intention? What are you what are you hoping for, is it is it something short term? Or are you looking to do something longer term, and it's just a strategic initiative to, increase access for a certain population. And then I think, depending on Is it is it a pain endemic response is it is it just we're in crisis and need to react and or stay competitive with competitor institutions, then I think that's kind of a shorter conversation. But for those schools that are really looking to, buy in to this kind of test optional movement, that I think it's that longer conversation, a longer journey of how can we continue to adopt policies, not just about that admissions process, but everything that's related to test scores, whether it's, registration for classmen, course placement, the financial aid model, our entire kind of review process? How can we look at all of these things? what, what data points are we replacing, the test scores with when we, when we don't have that information any longer? And how are we going to track the success of this initiative? And then continually revisiting that, and tweaking and improving? I mean, I started, what are you comfortable with as an institution, we started with an academic threshold, but then we got more and more comfortable with it, when we look at data. So, we're doing well, what, let's, let's open this up a bit more. And we said, we didn't quite see, an impact on, equity and access right away. So, then we're looking at, the aid model and things like that. And that, I mean, there's more levers that you can pull to this, it's not just test scores. And I think, if you're just looking to kind of stay up to speed or keep up with kind of what everybody else is doing, then yeah, sure, keep pushing, requirements and say, oh, for this fall, we're gonna do this, and next fall, we're gonna do that. But if you find, like we have at Belmont Abbey, that there's a little bit something more there. And it does, and it can remove barriers for students and, get them through to the admit stage and ultimately, enrolling at the institution, then it's that that kind of longer discussion.

[00:41:30] Jay Fedje: I really appreciate that. One of the things I think that comes to mind as, as I think about that, is that switching policy for application to a college moving back and forth to last year, we didn't require the test, and now he will have an impact. Students, by enlarge, I think are expecting students or schools to fall into one category, the other and not be jumping back and forth. So, from the student perspective, I think, the test optional approach, if it was last year, my brother applied last year, and I'm going to apply next year now I've got to do the test. There's there may be some confusion there from the from the student’s perspective. So consistency speaking, I think there needs to be, I think, at least a consideration from the students perspective, what does this really mean from for that student in confusion with the process?

[00:42:21] Martin Aucoin: Yeah, absolutely. I always feel for students navigating kind of this process. I mean, we know, I know, we work with them on a daily basis. But, I think only three years ago, we had surveys of our admitted students that were showing that on average, students were applying to three or four different institutions out of our admitted students. And, last year, it was, seven to 11. So, yeah, and so, it's, an arduous task to be doing this, navigating, that volume of college applications, but so many different policies and places and things like that. So, I mean, I do think, it's kind of the, you should be looking at what competitors are doing, but that's kind of like the lesser good, test optional, right? You, right? It's good that, hey, everybody's doing it. So, you've got to do this to stay relevant or stay competitive, unless you have kind of your own brand, and you're just totally not worried about that. But if you can look a little bit deeper at the impact on, your institution at Belmont Abbey, there's been a greater good of, breaking down those barriers and, and getting more students admitted, and then kind of tweaking policies and procedures to not only get them admitted, but to actually, recruit them, enroll them and then, support them so that they can be successful here.

[00:44:02] Jay Fedje: Right. Well, Martin, I we're coming to the end of time here and I just really appreciate you sharing your wisdom. Finding somebody that's going to talk about this from there very few schools in 2008, 2009 that were doing this, and you have a long history of some of the successes, some of the challenges, some of the, like you said, we tried this, we move this direction that kind of went bad, we tweak it, I really feel like this conversation has been very valuable. And I, I know our listeners are going to be pleased and use this as they consider whether they're gonna continue with the test optional or not. So, I thank you for coming out today and being with us today on the enrollment Edge and sharing your wisdom.

[00:44:45] Martin Aucoin: And it's always a pleasure to talk to you, Jay. And I thank you for your time and look forward to I know I've been enjoying the podcast look forward to future episodes listening in. So, it's been a great resource for, being an enrollment manager, so I appreciate it.

[00:45:00] Jay Fedje: Thanks for the plug, Martin, appreciate it. You've been listening to the Enrollment Edge Podcast, Enrollment Edge is sponsored by enrollmentFUEL, a full-service student search and marketing partner to colleges and universities. If you're listening on Apple podcast, please give us a five-star rating and review, your feedback will help us remain relevant and on the Edge. The Enrollment Edge is produced by Alison Walls, I'm your host Jay Fedje. Thanks for listening.